Mobile Airport Authority Chairman Confident in $381 Million Project Despite Funding Gap

June 14, 2024

A massive airport construction project in Mobile has an approximately $150 million funding gap, but a leading airport official said Thursday he is confident the project will be completed as proposed and within its latest $381 million budget.

Elliot Maisel, chairman of the Mobile Airport Authority, said during the authority’s board of directors meeting that officials are confident additional federal funding can be secured and other financial arrangements can be made to get the downtown airport project finished and close to its November 2025 completion date.

“If there is angst in our community or people in our community wondering (if the project can be completed), rest easy,” said Maisel. “The mission is to provide low-cost air fare to our city and area in Baldwin and Mobile counties, to improve the lifestyle of our city … it will still happen. There is no question about it.”

Fluctuating estimates

The project’s overall budget is an estimated $381 million, Maisel said. That’s a reduction from an estimated $414 million the Airport Authority pegged last month. He said that favorable contracting prices and value-added engineering – which have helped saved on costs – is keeping the estimates closer to where they were in January.

The $381 million price tag still represents a 15% increase over the $330 million estimate that was given when the project broke ground for construction in December 2022.

It’s a 52% increase over the $252 million price-tag given on the five-gate terminal at the Brookley Aeroplex. The project’s master plan, in 2020, had the project pegged at $243 million.

The exact costs will not be known until the “guaranteed maximum price” under the construction manager’s risk delivery model will be known – a benchmark for determining the final overall estimate of the entire project.

James Adams, southern region vice-president with Hoar Program Management – which is among the companies working on the project — said the authority should know the final costs by the fall.

“We are confident in our numbers at $381 million,” said Maisel. “The projections, the engineering, the forecasts and understanding the costs for today’s world lead us, as a board of directors, and primarily HPM on the job, to believe we can hit that number.”

Seeking funding

He said airport officials are also confident in securing additional support from the federal government through multiple funding grant sources provided by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Financing is also under consideration, particularly to pay for a parking garage that is estimated to cost around $50 million or more. Parking garages, which generate a revenue source for the airport authority, are not eligible for funding through the FAA.

“The element of approaching a lender is part of our program,” Maisel said. “We are not going to approach a lender and borrow money we can’t pay back.”

The project is not at risk of being cut back and remains at five gates. The existing airport terminal – which is adjacent to the new construction – will remain at two gates, giving the Downtown International Airport a seven-gate operation once the new terminal opens. The existing terminal, which opened in May 2019, will serve primarily low-cost carriers such as Breeze Airways, which is currently providing non-stop service from Mobile to Orlando.

When the new airport terminal opens, the authority will oversee a rare and complete swap of commercial aviation services for a city. The current commercial services will leave Mobile Regional Airport in the city’s far western suburbs to the new airport terminal at Brookley, a short drive to the heart of downtown Mobile.

Maisel said the swap, depending on the construction timetable, could occur in early 2026. But he said he doesn’t anticipate a “major deviation” from the original late 2025 opening estimate.

The terminal is under construction, with steel work rising from the ground. Maisel estimates 20 percent of the terminal’s superstructure is built. Other bids are coming in for the project that include $5.3 million on the baggage handling system, $6.3 million for the passenger boarding passages that allow passengers to load into an airplane, and $1.4 million for an elevator.

The board will meet on July 9 to consider other bids.

“This has been a journey and I know, without question, that this project is going to be transformational for the city of Mobile,” Maisel said. “We deserve it. People who live here need to be able to go somewhere without going to somewhere else first (and catch a connecting flight) and need to be able to do so at an affordable ticket price. That’s what is driving this thing.”

He added, “Our community is very excited about this project, very proud of it and are looking forward to it.”


The project is also occurring at a time while Pensacola is looking at building a new $70 million terminal expansion by 2027-2029, according to news reports. Pensacola International Airport had 1.2 million enplanements (passenger boardings) in 2022, according to the latest figures provided by the FAA. Mobile Regional Airport ranked No. 175 with 262,048 enplanements, up for 11% from the prior year.

Mobile officials are hopeful someday the downtown airport will operate with 12 gates and can be similar in size to Pensacola.

“Pensacola is a great city,” Maisel said. “They are a good neighbor. Maybe a little bit of ahead of us in terms of airport and travel and they provide our citizens an opportunity we will (soon) provide in a more convenient manner. We hope they do well. We will complement each other, the two cities. Although Mobile is bigger than Pensacola, they are a nice little city, and we hope they do well. They have an opportunity to do well, with or without us.”

Maisel added, “We are the capital of the northern Gulf Coast. You look between New Orleans and Jacksonville, and it’s us. We’ll do just fine.”

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